Rumors surfaced earlier this week that Real Salt Lake would be utilizing the U22 Initiative to sign a player, and that’s been playing out over the last 24 hours with a slightly surprising report from Tom Bogert: RSL is signing Diego Luna.
Of course, it’s not official yet, but unless something radically changes, expect this to happen. RSL won’t be able to register him until July when the secondary registration window opens, so there may not be a lot of urgency in announcing it — although it does sound like he may have already started training with Real Salt Lake, if he is indeed the “Diego” referred to by Pablo Mastroeni in a press conference as having joined the team.
UPDATE, 10:45 a.m.: Well, I might have been wrong here. Luna is expected to be available immediately. I don’t always understand MLS registration rules. None of us really do, do we? Anyway, on with the show.
Further details: Sources say Real Salt Lake will pay El Paso a $250,000 transfer fee for Diego Luna, which I believe is a USL-to-MLS record.— Tom Bogert (@tombogert) June 1, 2022
Also: San Jose Earthquakes to receive $50k GAM + $100k GAM bonus + small sell-on % in Luna for his rights. Luna spent time in SJ academy. https://t.co/XXhHuADoJz
Snagging Luna instead of having him head to Europe seems on its face a good thing, and while we don’t know the specifics of his contract, it does seem like he’ll be well rewarded for that decision. It’s encouraging for me to see the club invest in young talent, whether it’s from our academy or not, and it will hopefully go some way to improve our roster.
Slightly weirdly, Luna actually came out of the Casa Grande, Arizona academy — but only after it had changed hands to Barcelona when Real Salt Lake moved the residential academy to Herriman. He’s definitely not a homegrown player, especially because he went on to play for San Jose’s academy setup, but if you squint just right — well, it’s academic, isn’t it?
Luna is an interesting player for RSL to sign. He plays an attacking midfield role, but he can often be seen out wide in highlights. Transfermarkt records him as having largely played centrally, but he’s played some time on the wing, too, including for the U.S. under-20 national team.
He’s also been scoring at an impressive clip for a USL midfielder, with four goals in ten games. Add two assists to that total and you’ll see a player that rightly is catching the attention of clubs outside USL.
It’s not terribly likely that Luna would come in and immediately claim a starting position, but he’s a crafty midfielder that can play in an attacking midfield role. Outside of Damir Kreilach, no player has seemed an obvious option for the vaunted no. 10 role, and while I won’t bother comparing those two (except Luna is short and Kreilach is, well, tall,) I do think it provides an interesting alternative to the empty bucket 4-4-2 we’ve been playing with of late. Of course, formations are an ephemeral thing under RSL coach Pablo Mastroeni, so don’t read too much into anything in that regard.
We’ll keep listening for official word on this one, but Luna is an exciting signing. As a U22 Initiative player, it shows the club valuing his addition in a considerable way, and it further underscores the notion that the club is in a new era.